The language of Molière: not easy!

Just by translating the title of this article into French, you risk making several mistakes! For instance, is it « la langue de Molière » or « la langue à Molière » ? Do you need to leave a space before and after the colon and before the exclamation mark? Even the natives often make these mistakes. It might be useful to have a look at some of these rules again!

De or à ?
Even if many French people happily say « c’est la voiture à ta sœur », the correct sentence is « c’est la voiture de ta sœur ». So it is « le sac de Lucie », « le ballon de Pierre », and so on…

When using a simple punctuation mark (comma, full stop), one only needs to leave one space after the mark. However, double punctuation marks (colon, semicolon, exclamation mark, question mark) require a space before and after the mark.
So it will be:
Veux-tu un verre de jus d’orange ? Non merci, je viens de commander de l’eau.
Would you like a glass of orange juice? No thanks, I just ordered some water.

À l’attention de
Yes, it is « à l’attention de » and not « à l’intention de », even if a lot of people still make the mistake…

Au temps pour moi and sens dessus dessous (~my mistake and ~upside down)
Here are two other expressions that native speakers and learners of French find difficult to learn! Remember them well; it will prevent you from making unnecessary mistakes!

The imperative
The most common mistake when it comes to the imperative form is to put an « s » to the second-person singular when it is not required. If it is true that verbs from the second and third groups have an « s » (fais-le, dors bien), verbs from the first group end in « e », and do not need an « s ». Therefore, the correct spelling is merely « mange ça »!
However, there is one case where first-group verbs require an « s » in the second-person imperative – if the verb is followed by the pronouns “en” or “y”. So « Joues-y » is right!

Is « sans » plural or singular?
After « sans », one often wonders if one is meant to use a plural or a singular noun. And the answer is… that there is no rule! You need to use your common sense and replace « sans » by « avec » to know if the following noun seems right in the singular or the plural form. So it will be « une personne sans emploi », but « un arbre sans feuilles ». Indeed, a person often just has one job, whereas a tree has several leaves…


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1 thought on “The language of Molière: not easy!”

  1. Important reminders, thanks 🙂
    Although the spacing in Quebecois French for exclamation marks etc. is the same as in English. Maybe that’s not an official rule, but this has definitely been my experience with natives.
    Who writes “à l’intention de”??

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